There was a “heavy” scouting presence in attendance for Jonathan Papelbon’s most recent appearance, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Both the Blue Jays and Cubs are known to have interest in the closer, but Rosenthal now adds that additional clubs have inquired on the reliever.
Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Jays have had a high-ranking scout trail Papelbon for his past 10 contests. He’s only had one save opportunity in that time, though he has pitched in non-save situations. Per Salisbury, determining how much money would need to head to the Blue Jays has been a “significant” hurdle in talks thus far.
Papelbon has pitched well all season and has continued to put up rather excellent results since experiencing a significant velocity drop beginning in 2013. Rosenthal notes that he averaged 94.1 mph in his most recent outing, but he only threw nine pitches, so it’s not necessarily an indicator that his velocity has returned for good. Indeed, a look at Papelbon’s game-to-game velocity charts (via Fangraphs) reveals that the most recent appearance is something of an outlier.
PITCHf/x data shows that Papelbon has upped the usage of his slider in 2015, which may explain the increase in both his swinging-strike rate and his K/9 rate. At 34 years old, it’s unlikely that Papelbon will see a dramatic resurgence in the velocity department, but he’s still managed to post a pristine 1.01 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a career-best 51.5 percent ground-ball rate in 26 1/3 innings this year.
The remaining $7.67MM on his contract is an obstacle, to be sure, as is the $13MM option for 2016 that seems likely to vest. But, at roughly $20.5MM over the coming nine-and-a-half months of regular season games (to say nothing of potential postseason innings), Papelbon’s really not the overpriced asset that he’s often portrayed to be. Depending on the extent to which the Phillies are willing to subsidize an acquiring team, Papelbon could ultimately be looked upon as a below-market asset relative to his production.